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Another obscure German thrash band to not make it to the top of the scene, staying in the underground far from the mainstream and most conversations in metal circles. Fortunately due to the ever growing internet age of downloading music and whatnot, I've acquired the fairly obscure History of Hate, Despair's 1988 debut. Once again, finding a German thrash metal band that didn't ravage your soul and rip your fucking corpse like Kreator and Destruction, was fairly difficult I'd say. At least in hindsight bias for the most part, Despair were overlooked as playing the brand of thrash metal that wasn't popular anymore; the ever growing death metal trend started to take over and stuck between the normal thrash acts and the lighter more power metal acts inhabiting the other side of Germany's scene, Despair stay in the middle ground. Now to say they were far from the most obscure is absurd, as original vocalist Robert Kampf left the band after this album and went on to own Century Media, placing Despair to be the first European band on the mega-label.
History of Hate is the only album I've heard from Despair, so any other comparisons and the like fall to unknown ears, but here you will find pure Heathen worship, mixed with a lot of Testament and even a fair bit of early Iced Earth. Right from the get go, the first three songs pound it into your head that Despair are fucking technical speed induced thrash. Now, I won't go so far to say they are on the same level as Watchtower or Toxik or even Realm, but they're up there with a guitar tone and riffs akin to Testament and a production straight from Heathen's handbook, Despair are a likely product of the age of more thought out and productive thrash metal. A fair amount of melody strikes the pose of a decent afterthought, not at the forefront nor far from lacking in a melodic nature, the leads and solos are definitely welcome with plenty of shredding parts. Hell, even the album opens up with a two minute instrumental showcasing the finger prowess of the axemen.
History of Hate has a centerpiece, as often a lot of albums do. You have your ordinary utter speed induced tracks like "Freedom Now", "Outconditioned" and "Joy Division", then the varying tracks of lots of tempo changes like "Slaves of Power and the title track... then you have the 8 minute epic center of the album, "Constructing the Apocalypse". Fuck, even the title of the track is epic! Well, it's hard to bring in 'epic' elements into a thrash album, it's not as accessible to acquire the feeling like power metal or even death metal, but I suppose it can be possible. The progressions and riffing certainly does help here, though it's far from the most amazing thing ever; it's still kickass. At times, the riffs remind me of early Iced Earth mixed with early Testament. An odd attraction to the 'atmosphere' or whatever nature of the album you can imagine, the strange synths or keys brought in like the opening to "Slaves of Power", not sure what they were going for with this but it kind of sticks out among the rest of the album. "Slow Death" shows Despair slowing things down a bit with a brooding and menacing creeping intro riff that dominates the song.
Despair's debut, History of Hate, is an efficient and kickass thrash metal album. Plenty of technical riffs, tons of melodic leads and solos and did I mention the fucking riffs!? The bass is powerful and the vocals are far from bad, gang shouted at times and their best Testament impression. The speed on this album kicks my ass every time, so speed freaks welcome! If you can dig Heathen, Testament and early Iced Earth I'd highly recommend Despair's debut as there's very little to complain about.